Industry Insites – September 2014

Jayne Cohen Joins DGA as Senior Consulting Associate

I’m really pleased to announce that Jayne Cohen has become affiliated with DGA as a Senior Consulting Associate with a specialty in park operations and marketing. Jayne has over 35 years of hospitality and customer service experience. She and her family owned a large and very successful family camp resort in New Hampshire until it was sold in 2003. For 8 years, until October 2011 she was the President of Adventure Bound Camping Resorts, a privately owned company that owned 10 camping resorts. Jayne uses her skills and experience to assist clients to improve their revenues and profits by creating better experiences for their guests and creating systems, procedures, and strategic plans to obtain a client’s financial goals. Jayne earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Whittemore School of Business & Economics with concentrations in Marketing and Finance.
The addition of Jayne to the DGA team further enhances the firm’s ability to provide the most expert and comprehensive consulting services in the outdoor hospitality industry.
Welcome aboard, Jayne.

Regulating Campgrounds & RV Parks

A recent release from National ARVC described some renewed efforts by the association to try to use the NFPA Standard 1194 as a vehicle to address some long simmering regulatory issues that impact on campgrounds and RV parks in certain areas of the country. By addressing some of these issues in the NFPA standard, ARVC hopes to educate planners and regulators on positions that are favored by the industry.
In addition to the NFPA work, ARVC and RVIA are collaborating on improving the understanding among officials and the public of the park model RV. Park Model RV is the new designation for what was previously referred to as a recreational park trailer or a park model.
These two important initiatives raise questions and issues that need to be addressed as these efforts move forward.
The first question that comes to mind is……..does the park industry support regulation that goes beyond the traditional area that NFPA standards address – issues of life, health and safety of RVers and campers. Remember, NFPA stands for the National Fire Protection Association and its standards are focused on standards linked to life, health and safety issues. Setting standards for separation of RV units within a campground would seem appropriate. However, setting a minimum size for an RV site is probably unnecessary if you have a unit separation. Is the NFPA standard the right place to address issues outside the life, health and safety realm?
The second question has to do with full time RVing vs. year round RVliving. Until the recent merger of the former park model unit into RVIA and its renaming as an RV park trailer, it was generally accepted that park models were not intended for year round living but were specifically for temporary, short term recreational use. Now, with the merger of the RV park trailer into the range of traditional RVs, how does the industry differentiate full time RVing from full time, year round RV park trailer occupancy. Full time RVing has been an accepted use of an RV by tens of thousands of Americans who opt to downsize their lives and live fulltime in their RV. Now, if full timing is an acceptable practice, should full timing in an RV park trailer also be acceptable? To what degree does mobility of the unit regulate its use?
Another key question of concern in many areas around the US has to do with the treatment of RVs as personal property or real property.
Generally, the industry has long agreed that RVs of all kinds are personal property and therefore the owner of the property is responsible for taxes on that property. Some jurisdictions around the country have ruled that RVs left of a site for an extended period of time are real property as many cannot be moved and therefore the park owner is responsible for the tax on that property. The real issue now comes into play with RV park trailers that are legally RVs if the industry has its way, but are not easily moveable and are likely to be tied down to the ground either for protection against wind and hurricanes or for utility connections necessary to power residential size refrigerators, residential sized toilets and showers and sometimes add-a-room or screen room attachments. While technically an RV, have these units moved into a different class and are they now real property as opposed to personal property since they are at least semi-permanently attached to the ground?
What about RV park trailers that are used solely as rental units? Personal property or real property?
Should the industry work towards a definition of RV for personal property purposes and of RV for real property purposes? Are two categories necessary?
Another key question that needs to be considered has to do with the acceptable length of stay in an RV park. Some jurisdictions limit the period of time an RV may occupy a site; others limit the time that an occupied RV may remain on a site and some differentiate between an occupied and unoccupied RV on a site. And the time limits for any placement of an RV can vary based on the jurisdictions preference – 30, 60, 90, 120, 180 days or more or less.
Clearly, an RV park model generally has to be on a site for 365 days a year. Moving that unit into storage or to another site is probably not realistic on any regular schedule. So are RV park models regulated differently from other RVs?
Length of stay rules obviously impact the ability of a park to offer seasonal sites of varying lengths. And let’s say, town A has a 90 length of stay rule. Is a park in this town not permitted to accommodate RV park models? What about a full time RVer? Are they subject to that length of stay if they pay a daily or weekly rate rather than a 90 day seasonal rate?
And will it ever be possible to get jurisdictions in 50 states to ever agree to a national standard on length of stay?
ARVC and RVIA have a difficult road ahead to work out and resolve these and other regulatory questions that can sharply impact park operations. Hopefully, working cooperatively, and b ringing in the RV Dealers Association whose members probably have relationships in many jurisdictions around the US into the working group to address these issues some reasonable approaches to these issues can be achieved with at least some uniformity. Working together within the NFPA structure and perhaps through a renewed development of a national model code as a guide to local regulation, some semblance of national balance can be found that will work the advantage of all – consumers, campgrounds, RV manufacturers, RV dealers and local communities.
Best Parks in America
I’m deeply disappointed and saddened that the Best Parks in America brand and marketing group whose operations were suspended last winter, has not re-emerged, has not been re-tooled and is not yet ready to move forward with a new platform and program.
In today’s world, as the industry segmentation continues and as camping and RVing are showing rapid growth and expansion, the park industry still lacks a high end, premium brand that speaks to RVers and outdoor enthusiasts who seek that upscale premium experience.
I’m still hopeful that this situation may soon change and that Best Parks in America will re-emerge to serve that special market segment.
I hope that the summer camping season was terrific for those who serve that business. The early forecasts for winter travel and RVing in the southland seem quite encouraging.

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